A few months back, we sat down with Tamarina Head Bartender Nathan Rogers to discuss the restaurant, an Italian/Mediterranean concept that had just opened on 600 Brickell Avenue. After our brief talk, there was no doubt in our minds that we would become happy hour regulars. The second you sit at the bar and are greeted by Nathan, you feel right at home.
We met up with Nathan again to find out more about him: what led him to bartending, how he stays at the top of his game and what his future plans are. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who’s as passionate about his craft as he is. That’s why we had to interview him.
Nathan’s path to the bar wasn’t always a clear-cut one. Born in Fort Lauderdale and raised in New York, Nathan joined the military and was stationed in Boston. During his time there, he worked in an Air Force pharmacy. “If I wasn’t bartending right now, I would still be doing something in medicine. I just love helping people,” Nathan said. Personal and financial circumstances at the time, however, led him to the service industry.
It’s that desire to help others that makes Nathan a natural behind the bar. He started out working for James Beard Award-winner Barbara Lynch, who he credits for introducing him to his first love: fine wine. While working for her, he started learning about wine pairings and increased his knowledge tremendously. It was after his experience with Lynch and working at another bar that he began expanding his skill set even further.
Eventually, Nathan would go on to open both the bar at the Mondrian as well as Soho Beach House. At the former, he worked with Angelo Vieira, one of the Miami’s top bartenders at the time. Through him, Nathan began to learn more about cocktails — at a price. The job often had Nathan working an ungodly amount of hours. The money was good, but the job wore out some of his hip cartilage.
Being a part of the opening team at Soho Beach House gave Nathan the freedom to work on the bar program and train the staff; both of these responsibilities would help his career grow. After moving to Manhattan for a bit and bartending over there, he came back to Miami — cost of living was too high. He then worked at a Spanish club before ultimately arriving at Lippi, which was replaced by Tamarina late last year.
All these years of experience is evident in the way Nathan effortlessly handles his clients. “Bartenders are like concierges to the city. I treat the bar like my home — I want to make people comfortable.” And that he does. After all, Nathan knows what it takes to be a good bartender; he’s been on both sides of the bar and has hired plenty of staff. “A good bartender has to be able to relate to a person at some level. You need to know pop culture, sports, movies… a lot of different subjects.”
With Nathan, one’s bar experience is all about discovery. At Tamarina, he stocks lesser-known spirits and ingredients as well as the usual stuff. He’ll invite you to scope out the back bar and see if something catches your eye. Just whatever you do, don’t order an apple martini — it’s his personal pet peeve. “I’m sick of watermelon pucker, and apple martinis taste nothing like apple. Anything with -tini in the name is just lazy.” Flavored vodka is another no-no with him. “You’re better off just using fruit juice in your drink,” he said.
On the other hand, he’s a big fan of presentation, and it’s one of the trends he’s noticing more and more. “A lot more thought is going into how a drink is presented,” Nathan said. “The downside is time. There’s a battle between the time it takes to make a craft cocktail and the time it takes to drink one. I think patrons are more understanding about that now, though. They’re aware it can take a little extra time for a quality cocktail.”
Nathan dabbled in presentation with Tamarina’s signature punch on New Year’s Eve: Earl Grey-infused rum — which was run though a milk wash — with honey, citrus, and muddled fig topped with prosecco. It was based on the Roman tradition of exchanging honey-soaked figs and dates in glass jars as a sign of abundance in the New Year.
Coming up with these unique ideas involves quite a bit of research — something that Nathan does regularly. To stay abreast of the latest happenings in the bartending world, Nathan reads publications like Punch Drink and Imbibe Magazine, and he’s currently reading Dave Arnold’s book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. He’s also a big Twitter proponent; he interacts with distillers and vendors about different industry topics.
When Nathan finds himself on the other side of the bar, he enjoys a Last Word or a sazerac with cognac. A good whiskey on the rocks also hits the spot, he noted. He frequents the Regent Cocktail Club and Broken Shaker because of their atmosphere and elaborate bar programs. On his days off, you can probably find him at home on Netflix; his other big passion is film. He’s in love with character-driven 1970s cinema like Easy Rider and Chinatown — and especially The Godfather. “The Godfather opened my eyes to film history,” Nathan said.
You can find Nathan at Tamarina five days out of the week. The next time you visit the restaurant, ask for him or look for the guy with a million-dollar smile. You can’t miss him. You’ll probably find us there, too, enjoying his Old Fashioned and Dragoncella. Cheers.
Tamarina is located on 600 Brickell Avenue. Happy hour runs from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and all day on Sunday. For hours of operation and other information, call 305-770-6223 or visit tamarinarestaurants.com.